Donating for Dummies
November is here and the Season for giving has begun. While you may be putting together lists of gifts for family, I am putting together a wish list for the learning center. That is because children are not the only segment that is presented with gifts. Charitable causes are also popular on Christmas time.
The whole Christmas propaganda serves charitable institutions well. The season screams of messages of sharing your blessings and giving to the less fortunate. BER season is doing the job for most Fundraisers and Resource Mobilization Officers already.
While we are all high with the thought of sharing and giving, I have been on the other side of the equation. I have experienced collecting and packing stuff to be given away to some needy families. I have asked (and am still asking) around for donations from different organizations and individuals.
Here is one ugly truth behind the donations you give. Some of them are not that useful. Some of them are nice but it requires purchase of peripherals that the organization cannot afford. Some of them are creating headaches that are not worth the value of the donation.
And finally, some are just goddamned insulting.
Are any of those familiar? Did any of you give out tangerine gowns to families who lost their homes to a fire? Did you proudly hand-out expensive wine when you knew that the neighbourhood will not own a corkscrew? Or did you even nastily include tattered underwear in your clothes donations?
I will be nice and give you the benefit of the doubt in case you did any of those things. I collated these guidelines to help you better decide on what and how to give donations that the recipients will be completely thankful to receive.
In case you are already thinking that poor people cannot afford to be choosy and they should be thankful with any little crap you can give, then go away. This post is not for you.
But if you are sincere with your gift-giving/ donating and you want to know that you somehow helped out in your own way, then these are some of the guidelines I established based on years of experience in development work.
Tip #1. Ask the organization/ non-profit for their wish list.
Believe me, if a non-profit does not have a wish list, don’t give to them. The ones who are effective are the ones who know what they need. This is not gift-giving for a family member. The recipients of the gifts are not people you know for some time. So you cannot just come with a surprise gift and expect that it will be useful.
In this case, just ask for the list of their needs, pick what you can afford and give it to them.
Tip#2. Imagine how your donation will be used.
Maybe you are donating to an orphanage and the orphanage said that they would welcome toys and clothes for the kids. Don’t give toys that will require a battery. Most probably, the orphanage will not be able to afford to replace them.
Furthermore, accord the recipients with respect. Don’t donate damaged clothes that the recipients will have to spend time mending themselves. Yes, they are poor. But imagine how you would feel if you were given a stinky and unwashed socks for Christmas. Can’t you make the little effort to mend if it’s just a little hole and wash the clothes already so it will smell new?
Tip#3. There are donations and there is trash. KNOW THE DIFFERENCE.
Some of you might have used the donation opportunity to unload unwanted stuff from your house. It could be the lamp that has been shelved for three years or the PX goods left in the cupboard from your mother-in-law’s last visit.
Did you check if they are working? Did you check if they are expired?
That is additional work that you are passing on to the organization just because you are not thinking. Sincere giving requires thought. It doesn’t matter that it is not brand new (unless specifically stated in their wish-list). What matters is that the donation is in good working order.
Tip#4. Be conscious of additional costs.
I am currently asking an office for a printer for the computer learning center. I did not choose the cheapest printed available. I asked for a specific brand from a specific store. It is Php4k more expensive there. But I chose it because I will only worry about Php1,000 cost of ink refills every 6 months while the cheaper printers will kill me with cartridge refilling costs.
Transportation is also another additional cost. Maybe you would need to have something shipped or picked-up. Shoulder the expenses yourself. Or just give them cash.
A white elephant was supposedly gifted by Burmese monarchs to obnoxious courtiers they want to impoverish. This is because the maintenance costs of a white elephant is too much and the courtier would dare not dispose of a gift from a monarch.
At least in today’s time, the non-profit has the option to throw the white elephant away. Although, why should you even burden them with the task at all?
I hope this helps you in choosing you gifts to charity this season.
P.S. I did not include volunteering options in this post because I think it deserves another post.